State of Washington v. Richardson v. Siegel

This court case is completed

The ACLU argued as amicus to the state Supreme Court in a case concerning the appropriate standards for reviewing a motion to unseal court records.  The defendant in this case had records of a misdemeanor conviction vacated and sealed; he later ran for political office and members of the media sought to unseal the case records.  After the trial court refused to unseal the records, the media appealed.  The ACLU argued that the case should be remanded to the trial court to weigh whether compelling circumstances justified unsealing.  The ACLU also urged the court to reject the media and state’s arguments that conviction records should never be sealed, arguing that a defendant’s interest in rehabilitation is valid and should be weighed against the public’s right to access in considering motions to seal and unseal.  Five members of the  state Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court, but held that whenever a motion to unseal is filed, the proponent of sealing bears the burden of proving that sealing is appropriate.  Four members of the court concurred in the result only, stating that the proponent of unsealing should have to prove compelling circumstances.